Thursday, February 17, 2011

Winterbottom's Killer Inside Me

Michael Winterbottom's controversial rendering of Jim Thompson's famous paperback original, The Killer Inside Me, didn't seem to make much impact in Finland. Maybe we're so used to looking at helpless women getting beaten and kicked to death we don't care. Many commentators here said the film is lame.

I watched the film recently on DVD and have to wonder: lame? what the fuck? I didn't see anything lame about this - it was a very powerful and unsettling experience, even though I'm pretty accustomed to read about rapes and beatings.

Winterbottom's film is very close to Thompson, but stays away from going into killer Lou Ford's head. He's seen from the outside, his own comments in the voice-over narration don't do much to deepen what we already see. I think this might be what makes the film lame to others. They want to see some crazy stuff happening, the guy going really insane and saying "boo!" and thinking perverse thoughts all the time. This stuff doesn't happen here - it would be just too easy and public-pleasing - and I really think this is the best way to film Jim Thompson.

I realized watching this that's it's been almost 20 years, since I read Thompson's novel. About time to revisit it, especially when the film made some things clearer that I hadn't understood the first time around. But I do remember that I wrote a review of the then new Finnish translation and compared it to Ellis's American Psycho and Donna Tartt's The Secret History, under the headline "The American Nihilism", and came to the conclusion that Thompson outwins both Ellis and Tartt in the harshness of his vision.

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